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Richard Nixon Wartime Address Highlights: 7 Quotes From Speech

By    |   Friday, 22 May 2015 11:07 AM

Richard Nixon promised a “secret plan to end the war” in Vietnam, but the wartime situation was more complicated than that once he took office.

Here are seven highlights from his speeches about the war:

1. Soon after he took office, Nixon scrapped his campaign pledge to end the war in favor of a gradual withdrawal known as “Vietnamization.” To the young protesters, he said:
“I want peace as much as you do. There are powerful personal reasons I want to end this war. This week I will have to sign 83 letters to mothers, fathers, wives and loved ones of men who have given their lives for America in Vietnam. It is very little satisfaction to me that this is only one-third as many letters as I signed the first week in office. There is nothing I want to do more than to see the day when I do not have to write any more of those letters.” – “Silent Majority” televised speech, Nov. 3, 1969

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2. However, Nixon invoked the “silent majority” and called for peace with honor:
“Let historians not record that, when America was the most powerful nation in the world, we passed on the other side of the road and allowed the last hopes for peace and freedom of millions of people to be suffocated by the forces of totalitarianism.

“So tonight, to you, the great silent majority of my fellow Americans, I ask for your support. I pledged in my campaign for the Presidency to end the war in a way that we could win the peace. I have initiated a plan of action which will enable me to keep that pledge ...

3. And he ended with a call for unity: ”Let us be united for peace. Let us also be united against defeat. Because let us understand: North Vietnam cannot defeat or humiliate the United States. Only Americans can do that.”

4. “Tonight I can report that Vietnamization has succeeded
. Because of the increased strength of the South Vietnamese, because of the success of the Cambodian operation, because of the achievements of the South Vietnamese operation in Laos, I am announcing an increase in the rate of American withdrawals. Between May 1 and December 1 of this year, 100,000 more American troops will be brought home from South Vietnam.” – Televised address to nation, April 7, 1971

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5. Why not announce a date for complete troop withdrawal? Here’s why, Nixon said in that television address: “Well, the difficulty in making such an announcement to the American people is that I would also be making that announcement to the enemy. And it would serve the enemy's purpose and not our own ... Shall we leave Vietnam in a way that — by our own actions — consciously turns the country over to the Communists? Or shall we leave in a way that gives the South Vietnamese a reasonable chance to survive as a free people?”

6. It’s about self-respect, he added: “I know there are those who honestly believe that I should move to end this war without regard to what happens to South Vietnam. This way would abandon our friends. But even more important, we would abandon ourselves. We would plunge from the anguish of war into a nightmare of recrimination. We would lose respect for this Nation, respect for one another, respect for ourselves.”

7. Accepting the Republican nomination in 1972, Nixon said tried to put Vietnam into perspective for the convention: “Now it is understandable that Vietnam has been a major concern in foreign policy. But we have not allowed the war in Vietnam to paralyze our capacity to initiate historic new policies to construct a lasting and just peace in the world.

“When the history of this period is written, I believe it will be recorded that our most significant contributions to peace resulted from our trips to Peking and to Moscow.”
– Speech to Republican National Convention, Aug. 23, 1972.

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Richard Nixon promised a "secret plan to end the war" in Vietnam, but the wartime situation was more complicated than that once he took office.
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2015-07-22
Friday, 22 May 2015 11:07 AM
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